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Mobile devices and the productivity myth

There’s no denying the shift away from desktop computing and into mobile computing is continuing. Whether this is due to technological or behavioral reasons is yet to be understood. If left unchecked, mobile computing could, counter-intuitively, destroy your firm’s productivity.

Popular opinion amongst CIOs has mobile computing (and the accompanying flexible working) improving productivity. Does your best work really come from working in a chaotic Starbucks or scribbling whilst rushing between meetings?

Granted, ‘productivity’ is reliant on a number of factors, arguably chief of which is reserving enough time to produce a quality deliverable. Most would agree that it’s harder to produce quality work on the go, yet unfortunately, mobile computing tempts users into squeezing traditionally desktop-centric tasks, into ever-shorter periods of time. Ask yourself how many times you’ve found yourself writing, reviewing or editing work whilst:

  • waiting for a train,
  • on the train,
  • rushing between meetings,
  • during the meeting you’ve just rushed into,
  • just as you are going to bed,
  • whilst half asleep or before you wake up!

This risk to quality work may actually lower your productivity, owing to the level of rework required to correct mistakes, provide clarification or otherwise improve upon the first draft.

Now ask yourself the question: Would have my productivity genuinely suffered if instead I’d done this work in time I’d set aside? Often, quality suffers in favour of speed. Sometimes that’s appropriate (a quick ‘n’ dirty email one liner), sometimes not.

Finally, consider the cumulative impact on productivity of teams of people within your project / organisation losing time to re-work here and there – yet simultaneously thinking they are being more productive. Perhaps, with the rise of mobile devices in the work place, it’s time to revisit some working practices of old, reducing rework and increasing productivity.